I’m a member of a panel Jul 23 for the Boston Agile Bazaar meeting, and am attempting to articulate my two-minute position statement to the question:
How would you characterize your approach to handling people problems on agile teams?
My problem is that I don’t do anything any differently for agile or non-agile teams. I still provide feedback. I still offer coaching. I coach or teach how to give feedback and coach. I sometimes offer mentoring, if that’s appropriate and requested. I still help people break their tasks into smaller chunks (new-to-agile people tend to have a lot of problems with that, unless they are practiced at inch-pebbles). I still help people see the process and ask whether they are using the process to their advantage. To me, it doesn’t matter what lifecycle people use, I do similar things, although the process is different.
So, what’s different about agile teams and the people issues? For me, it’s the transparency. People can hide in a serial lifecycle. There’s less hiding in other lifecycles, but only in agile do you get the transparency that helps everyone see what the people issues are.
At the team level, the daily standups, burnups, burndowns, and cumulative flow diagrams all show you if there’s a person-problem, an interpersonal problem, a team-problem, or a project problem.
Agile doesn’t just show project-level problems; it’s also exposes management problems.
- Emergency projects could be a sign of insufficient project portfolio management, as well as technical debt (what does done mean?).
- Not knowing which project to devote your energies to is a lack of strategic direction or a lack of project portfolio management. It shows up in projects as many unrelated tasks on cards, or just plain interruptions.
- Teams with obstacles that they can’t remove because the obstacle is imposed by management, or the furniture police, or corporate policy is a management problem. Don’t kid yourself–this is a people problem.
- Teams that never quite have enough people–and there are open reqs–have a management problem that is a person-problem.
Management problems are people problems. I work in the realm of management problems. Most managers don’t know what they need to do: decide which products to deliver when; take the lead on strategic planning, manage the project portfolio, create an environment in which people can do their best job, and take the lead on hiring. This is hard work. And, if you’re accustomed to command-and-control, you may not have done these things before. At the very least, you did them differently than you need to do them now.
I’d love your comments: is this coherent to you? Does it make sense? Did I leave anything out that you’ve heard me say/write before? Thank you.